Lt. Gov. McKee: Legislation would save consumers, businesses millions on energy

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Lt. Gov. Dan McKee on Wednesday touted legislation that he says will improve customer service and save Rhode Islanders millions in energy costs.

McKee made his case for the legislation at a State House news conference. Wayne Celia, president and CEO of Diversified Global Technologies, is among those who support the proposed laws.

In 2010, Celia’s Woonsocket-based company upgraded its manufacturing equipment and needed more electricity to run the business. But Celia says he encountered roadblocks with National Grid.

“It took almost a year to get the appropriate power and it really devastated our company,” Celia said.

To address customer service issues that McKee believes have plagued Rhode Island businesses, his proposals would require timely installations and itemized billing for upgraded power services.

“There would be penalties if those time frames are not met,” McKee said.

The package of bills would also prevent electric distribution companies from charging electric customers to fund gas supply expansion projects, and would create a program to encourage suppliers to enter the electric market on Empower RI, the state’s electricity-shopping website.

“The more competition that’s in the market, the more choice that the ratepayers have and the potential for savings increases with more and more people getting in the market,” McKee said. “With this bill, you’re really looking at potentially millions of dollars of savings that could be realized by the ratepayers in the state of Rhode Island.”

In a statement to Call 12 for Action, National Grid said: “We support H-6171 which further encourages competition in the market. The other bills, which we oppose, are either duplicative of what RI regulators already do or would do grievous harm to RI efforts at energy efficiency. His legislative package would, if passed, set back efforts to arrive at potential solutions to the state’s and the region’s natural gas availability.”

According to McKee, about 13% of Rhode Island’s ratepayers have switched to a competitive electric supplier through the Empower RI website.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.